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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 18:30 GMT
Judges urged to jail Berlusconi
Prosecutor Ilda Boccassini summing up on 12 November 2004
The prosecutor says Berlusconi failed to explain payments to judges
A prosecutor has urged a court in the Italian city of Milan to sentence Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to eight years in jail for alleged corruption.

Mr Berlusconi is accused of bribing judges in the 1980s - years before he entered politics - to prevent an acquisition by a business rival.

The Italian prime minister dismisses the charges as "judicial persecution, which I am proud to resist".

His defence is due to wrap up its case and a verdict is expected in December.

'Judges on payroll'

The trial was suspended in June last year after parliament passed a law granting the prime minister immunity, but this was later thrown out by the Constitutional Court and the trial resumed in April.

Prosecutors allege that from the mid-1980s Mr Berlusconi made payments to judges to prevent a rival, Carlo de Benedetti, from buying the state's stake in food giant, SME.

They allege Mr Berlusconi paid the money to a lawyer in his Fininvest holding company, Cesare Previti, who then paid the money to judges Renato Squillante and Filippo Verde.

Silvio Berlusconi
How else can I explain the dozens of procedures set up against me? This is a manifest judicial persecution
Silvio Berlusconi
Fininvest "had the judges on their payroll... so that they served the interests of Berlusconi", said prosecutor Ilda Boccassini.

Squillante was convicted of corruption last year and sentenced to eight years in jail - the maximum term faced by Mr Berlusconi if convicted.

Previti is serving a five years in jail for bribery last year - though cleared of influencing the sale of SME.

Mr Berlusconi was not in court on Friday, but he has vigorously protested his innocence.

In a book on modern Italian history, due out on Tuesday, he says:

"How else can I explain the dozens of procedures set up against me by [attorneys and fraud investigators]?

"This is a manifest judicial persecution, which I am proud to resist, and the fact that my resistance and sacrifice will give the Italians a more fair and efficient judicial system makes me even more proud".




SEE ALSO:
Italian PM attacks judiciary
30 Jan 03 |  Europe
Country profile: Italy
26 Mar 03 |  Country profiles


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